Dinner for two


You never know what a day with AidCamps will bring!

On Friday I was contacted by a Canadian ex-volunteer, John Dinner who was checking out the new website and noticed that in the revamp we'd omitted to include some of the testimonials we used to have published on the site.

John asked if we still had his write up from the project he completed in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka in 2006.

Now I wasn't with AidCamps then but I spoke with Julie, one of our founding trustees, and she remembered John and his write up as she led the project concerned and thought the testimonial was one of the most moving we'd ever received (and the project one of the most enjoyable).

I pulled the document out of the files, read it and have to admit I think she was right!

I've put the testimonial at the bottom of this post so you can make your own mind up. I urge you to read it and perhaps even have a tissue to hand ...

Anyway, in the subsequent email exchange with John I made an amazing discovery (well it was news to us at AidCamps at least)! During the project John met his wife to be Tasha, a fellow volunteer from Canada.

I have to say, several of us at AidCamps have joked about our first 'AidCamps marriage' but this is the first we've ever heard of one and we're delighted - though I don't suppose we can claim much credit for it.

John and Tasha

So, we'd like to wish the happy couple belated congratulations and here's that testimonial I mentioned ...

"Going to Sri Lanka. Going to help build a resource centre on the other side of the planet. I'm going to do this with 10 women, most of who I know, and an English dude named Cook? (My last name is Dinner, the humour was easy -- 'Dinner Cook breakfast' was going to be heard far too often!) And most of us are teachers! (Which would explain the lame humour) From Canada! (at least we're good looking!) What are we doing? What am I doing? I haven't even boarded the plane yet, and this already seems surreal.

German philosopher Hannah Arendt once wrote, 'Nothing we use or hear or touch can be expressed in words that equal what is given by the senses.' Never before has an experience in my life fitted a quote so well.

In trying to find the words to share with others about my experience in Sri Lanka this summer, I am simply left with the words, 'You just have to go.'

I cannot make the computer screen smell of the wonderful smells hanging in the air. Open air food markets, gardens, exhaust, heat -- all meshed together. I cannot make your mouth water as ours did at the sight of another rambutan being bought off the side of the road or another tasty roti being brought out of the kitchen.

I cannot convey the power of a child's smile when they know that what you are doing is for them. I cannot, no matter how many pictures I show or television programs I watch, explain the gut wrenching experience of seeing pristine white beaches end where destruction and devastation begin. How do you then describe meeting and speaking with the people who live this experience everyday? My words could never open your eyes or your hearts in the way ours were. What I can write is GO!

How can my words get you to understand that what was once searing, almost unbearable heat that had you sweating in places you didn't think produced sweat, was something easily forgotten while at the work site? It was forgotten because we knew we were part of something larger. It was forgotten because we knew we had to do our bit in the brief time we were there. We were part of a project that so many wanted, and the kids needed. The effect of a child's smile and the joy in their eyes despite all of their difficulties serves as a better air conditioner than any western technology.

I cannot express in words what it feels like to be accepted by a community where you are greeted by smiles from everyone, and I mean, everyone. A community that cares for its visitors as guests, and treats them like royalty. There is truly nothing I can write that will ever do this experience justice. What I can write is GO!

How else can you experience the kindness and friendships we felt and developed in our brief time in Sri Lanka. Beginning in our first days, we were introduced to the local staff of SERVE and their families, and we knew we were in for something special. The constant smiles and the willingness to ensure we were comfortable and enjoying ourselves set the stage for a wonderful 16 day experience. Elephants, train and bus rides, relaxing in a beautiful garden after a hot day of work with a Lion beer, walking, driving, honking, dancing, high fives, nods, bubbles-- it all added up to an experience of a lifetime. One that will not be forgotten by me or the people I shared this with. It was humbling. It was invigorating. It was fun. It was an experience.

Unfortunately my words cannot give you the goose bumps I got when I saw the ribbon cut during our opening ceremony, or put the smile on your face like I had when the kids lit up. Nor can they give you the tug at your heart we all felt as we pulled away from the work site (work site, seems like such an inappropriate word now) for the last time, or put the tear in your eye as waved goodbye to the amazing friends (family?) we had made. But hopefully what my words can do, is help you decide to go.

And while I struggle to find words to inspire others to do what we did and enjoy the experience we enjoyed, I am left back where I started, 'You just have to go.' And after you have gone, come back and read these words, maybe, just maybe, they will have more meaning for you, and then it will be your turn to try and tell the story of what it meant to you and what it was like to be a part of something so good."

What can I say ...




Great reading :)
Great news. Brings back good memories of a great project. Congratulations John and Tasha.
Amazing! It has been a while since we did this trip but after reading Johns words all the thoughts and feelings came flooding back! Great memories with great people. Reading this brought a smile (and a tear) to my face!!! Sares
Vishal Ramanah
Great Reading
Obviously a life changing experience for Tasha and John! A very moving write-up which brought back so many memories and feelings from my own first AidCamp in Sri Lanka. I hope it will inspire others.

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